Cob here. Mrs. Swan’s month of insanity continues and so continues my ongoing series of shameless humblebrags cleverly disguised as tips. (Mom, just google humblebrag). It's summer time and you know what that means, its time to officially give up on the Cubs. Oh, and swimming, yes that’s my point swimming.
As Mrs. Cobb reminds me anytime I take a bath, I am not a strong swimmer. I don’t know why. My parents had me in swim lessons at 6 months old. You see my family has a lake house and my dad’s theory, and it isn’t a bad one mind you, was that if that kid falls in the water, we need to make sure he doesn’t sink like a stone – I need five or six seconds to jump in after him.
So though I am decidedly unstone-like (too much hair) I am not a good swimmer. I recall being in swim lessons and my younger siblings usually started at a higher level than and definitely finished all 12 levels, by the time I was even allowed me into the deep end of the pool. Talk about embarrassing. But let me should clarify. Though I am not a good swimmer, I love diving in the water and swimming around. I just get really tired, really fast, probably because I am doing it all wrong.
Mrs. Swan, was a fantastic competitive swimmer growing up. If she hadn’t torn her rotator cuff her senior year, she might have even given swimming a go in college. She is what we call a strong swimmer; I call her a show off. Nonetheless swimming and playing in the water is part of some of our fondest childhood memories. We want the same for Lukas.
So it is important to us that Lukas is at least comfortable in the water. Personally I hope he takes after Mrs. Swan in terms of ability, though both of us aren’t sure if we want him to be doing the whole swim team at 4am thing. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
So this summer’s mission is comfort. Two reasons. First, the water is a ton of fun, but sometimes kids get quite scared of it. Second, and more importantly, our family vacations involve the water, and I don’t see that changing for quite some time. With Mrs. Swan’s parents we typically go to the beach. With my parents it is the lake house, where Pop-Pop is constantly muttering about kids who sink like stones.
Our plan to make Lukas comfortable is going well, some might say swimmingly. (Yeah, roll your eyes. Whatever, you’re just jealous.) On Saturday, at grandma’s pool he tried to just walk down the steps into the water while we were still putting our bags down. It seems he is comfortable. Quite a difference, at the beginning of the summer he was very nervous around the pool.
The plan all started with running through the sprinkler. Lukas has water days at school every Thursday and while he was hesitant the first water day, seeing other kids run through it apparently told him that it was all right. He now goes nuts in the sprinkler and at the splashpark in the Old Fourth Ward of Atlanta. (If you are in ATL, check it out, it is just off North Ave., near the Masquerade. Pretty awesome).
So the sprinklers got him used to water and splashing, but it took some silliness to get him to actually enjoy going in the water with us. Initially Lukas did not like simply being held in the middle of the pool, swimming in our arms. He would get close to throwing a fit if you tried to take him off the steps at the side of the pool. We overcame that by me throwing him. No, not like that. Lukas loves to be thrown in the air and caught. I started doing this in the water and simply catching him as he meets the water. This got him used to water splashing on him and to submerging a bit into the water. Here is a tip though, make sure the kid is wearing a water shirt. I tried throwing him when he had no shirt on and catching him was darn near impossible. Apparently toddlers are very slippery.
So, he stands in shallow water, he will get thrown in the air, he tolerates swimming around in the middle of the pool with mama and dada. The last thing was going underwater. It had already happened once or twice, and it wasn’t even my fault – he usually fell over in a baby pool and went under – but it would really scare him. It would scare us too. Mrs. Swan and I had read that you should blow in his face and then just dunk him: apparently blowing in his face makes him hold his breathe. That system is all well and good, but the face blow/dunk method doesn’t give the kid much choice and at the end of the day, we weren’t convinced it was making him all that comfortable going underwater.
The solution was discovered by accident and like most of my parent breakthroughs it came about because I am a silly, silly man. I was holding Lukas and I dunked my own head, came up blowing water out my mouth and growling. He thought it was hysterical and starting point at the water saying “Dada… Dada! More… more!” So I kept dunking my head for about two minutes. I then was tired. And then it happened. He started bending his face to the water and dipping his face in. The game then became Dada tries, then Lukas tries. I am pleased to report that Lukas has since fallen over in baby pools and gone under, but he now comes up laughing, having held his breath the whole time. Success? Kind of.
One problem. When I taught him to dunk his face I would do an exaggerated inhalation. You know mouth open, audibly sucking in air. And I wouldn’t close my mouth until I started to tilt my head down. So of course, having never seen me close my mouth, Lukas started to hold his mouth open and stick his face in the water, with his mouth still open. For those of you scoring at home, this is not what we were trying to teach him. This is in fact the opposite of what we were going for. So, the new technique is to inhale, puff cheeks like some sort of chipmunk and then dunk our head. He has caught on, and is no longer trying to drink the pool.
So, is Lukas a fish? No, he is a little boy. Does he like to swim? I think so. Most importantly for us, he seems to not panic anymore if he ends up underwater. I suppose the take away point I got from all of this is that if you can make something that is scary, like going underwater, seem silly, even fun, it goes a long way to getting your child to see there is nothing to be scared of. So be a goofball.